Fantastic Fest has come and gone all too fast, but while the largest genre festival in the US may be over, Cinematical's coverage of it isn't just yet. A few more items will be trickling in over the course of the week, but even without the late additions, we've already reviewed nearly thirty films, interviewed over a dozen people associated with said films, and wrote about a dozen more articles relating the festival mood and experience to anyone who couldn't be there in person. Not too shabby for a seven-day film festival.
Below you can find links and summaries to every single piece of Fantastic Fest 2010 coverage we have. It should give you easily digestible opinions of the movies and every major event that went on at the festival. So if you're looking for a quick barometer of the kinds of films you should be looking for in the near future, look no further.
The Top 10 Fantastic Fest Films You Need to See (According to Peter Hall)
10. 'Bedevilled' - It's a difficult film to watch, but the payoff is worth it.
9. 'Legend of the First: Return of Chen Zhen' - The best martial arts film at the fest. Donnie Yen is in top form and the film's opening alone, which can easily be summed up as 'Saving Private Chen Zhen', is why it should be on your must see list.
8. 'Let Me In' - It's one of the best horror films of the year. Yes, it hasn't been a great year for horror, but don't let that lower your expectations any; this is a tense and faithful retelling of a truly excellent vampire story.
7. 'Redline' - A face-in-a-jet-engine reminder of the crazy things that can only make total sense in the world of anime.
6. 'Man From Nowhere' - A very slick, very badass secret-agent-on-a-warpath film from South Korea.
5. 'The Troll Hunter' - A Norwegian 'Big Man Japan' that is fresh, fun and innovative in a time when most "found footage" films are starting to feel tired and overly serious.
4. 'I Saw the Devil' - A savage revenge/serial killer mash-up that utilizes the best writing, directing and acting talents working in South Korea today.
3. '13 Assassins' - As Goss said in his review, "It's a Takashi Miike movie for people who thought they didn't have the stomach for those." If you like samurai films, this is one of the best to come around in a long, long time.
2. 'Golden Slumber' - A re-teaming of the writer-director team behind last year's tremendously entertaining 'Fish Story' that does nothing but keep a smile on your face for nearly two hours.
1. 'Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale' - You've never seen a Christmas-themed film like it before. That's no exaggeration, it's simple truth. Thank the film Gods that it will be getting a US release this December, because this Finnish gem is a total blast from stem to stern.
From Will Goss' Review: "Takashi Miike has more than made a name for himself with his freakier fare ... but you wouldn't know it from '13 Assassins', his surprisingly conventional remake of a 1963 Eiichi Kudo film ... adheres so tightly to established men-on-a-mission tropes ... And if Miike revels in the violence here, it's with some relative restraint ... It's a Takashi Miike movie for people who thought they didn't have the stomach for those."
From Peter Martin's Review: "Period picture harks back to the glory days of Hong Kong cinema in the early 90s ... Wire fu still makes purists cringe ... several more down-to-earth action sequences; the best is one in which Qingling employs "chicken bone fu," ... a decent rental choice for a lazy Saturday afternoon."
'30 Days of Night: Dark Days'
From Eric D. Snider's Review: "Horror sequels that skip theaters and go straight to DVD have a bad reputation, and '30 Days of Night: Dark Days' is a good example of why that is ... gore effects are almost embarrassingly unconvincing, and the film uses what is unquestionably the wateriest fake blood I've ever seen. Gallons of it, too. But it matches the rest of the movie: thin, weak, and a poor substitute for the original."
From Will Goss' Review: "Slowly shifts focus from one frustrated female to the other, piling on injustices with a heavy hand ... before finally letting loose with his protagonist's righteous fury. The set-up may not be subtle ... but the ultimate pay-off is certainly, viscerally satisfying."
From Peter Martin's Review: "'Golden Slumber' smoothly veers from political thriller to human drama to family comedy and then back again ... just when you think you have the movie pegged ... it morphs into something else entirely ... This is a movie that deserves wider notice."
From Todd Gilchrist's Review: "'Hatchet II' is hardly the most technically accomplished of this year's offerings, and it's almost completely unoriginal, and yet it wears its vintage slasher clichés like merit badges, not merely acknowledging but gleefully celebrating their glorious familiarity."
From John Gholson's Review: "Writer/director Philip Ridley seems to be attempting a Neil Gaiman-esque story of a disaffected youth whose life is altered by colorful, supernatural characters, but doesn't appear to have a specific goal he's working toward narratively ... Ridley's approach is more kitchen sink, tossing everything into a hodge-podge of murky motivations and half-baked concepts that never really pay off, in the hopes that something, anything, will work.
'A Horrible Way to Die'
From Will Goss' Review: "What Sarah doesn't know is that Garrick has escaped from his prison transport and is currently heading her way ... a fairly subdued thriller, capably acted all around and cleverly structured ... frustratingly opaque camerawork and ragged editing in an attempt to bolster a sense of murky mood and growing menace when banality and a tripod would've served the story just fine and the performances even better."
'I Spit on Your Grave: Unrated'
From John Gholson's Review: "The title alone is an act of disrespect ... challenges the very concept of a "guilty pleasure" ... There's almost no moment in the film when something explicitly horrifying isn't happening ... should satisfy skeptical fans of the original and any horror fans who prefer the kills to the characterization."
'In The Attic'
From Jette Kernion's Review: "'In the Attic' is a stop-motion animated children's film ... set almost entirely in the sprawling attic of a family home ... especially creepy for a family film ... but the animation style is fascinating and unusual. ... Animator Jiri Barta has created a beautiful, delicate little world. Many of the animation set pieces, are absolutely incredible."
'Ip Man 2'
From Peter Martin's Review: "'Ip Man 2' provides an abundance of the classic action that fans crave ... for action junkies of all nationalities, the first hour or so of the picture is glorious ... the rest of the film is taken up with some overblown fisticuff ... Even in those fights, however, the filmmakers carve their own initials into the signature sequences."
From Luke Mullen's Review: "'Julia's Eyes' is a tense, atmospheric horror film that plays out like a modern day giallo ... plenty of talent on both sides of the camera with genre maestro Guillermo del Toro taking on producing duties and the amazing Belen Rueda starring ... nods to films like 'The Double Life of Veronique' and the Audrey Hepburn classic 'Wait Until Dark,' 'Julia's Eyes' is a fast-paced thriller with plenty of twists and turns that is well worth seeking out."
From John Gholson's Review: "If you need to challenge your personal threshold for watching realistic human suffering, then look no further than this nihilistic Spanish home invasion thriller ... a tiresome feature-length onslaught of relentless tears, screaming, and sobbing amidst occasional bursts of queasy shock-value violence ... the only natural response, whether you like the film or not, is to leave the theatre completely shell-shocked."
'Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen'
From Todd Gilchrist's Review: "Donnie Yen plays Chen Zhen, a legendary soldier and martial artist who fakes his death after single-handedly saving a phalanx of soldiers during World War I ... amazing fight scenes ... communicates emotional drive, and a seriousness of purpose, giving the action sequences dramatic tension and a sense of payoff."
'Let Me In'
From Peter Hall's Review: "'Let Me In' is an astounding accomplishment for all involved and one of the best horror films of the year ... the only time that Reeves' knack for theatricality gets in the way is in regards to Abby's frenzied movement ... these clearly digital flourishes detract more than they add ... worth every bit the love that 'Let The Right One In' rightfully earned and then some."
From Brian Salisbury's Review: "'Mother's Day' is a solid piece of filmmaking ... It's not the best, but overall it is a slick, gory, and ultimately satisfying horror remake ... ratchets up the tension so well ... for the first two acts, at least."
'Mutant Girls Squad'
From Peter Martin's Review: "'Mutant Girls Squad' dumped a reported three tons of blood onto the screen ... conjuring up creatives ways to kill people in as bloody and disgusting a manner as possible ... appeals to a very narrow demographic ... becomes increasingly difficult to watch as the running time wears ever onward ... formula is getting old."
From Peter Martin's Review: "The film is very funny in its own intentionally silly way, though it probably stretches its premise too thin for non-Norwegian audiences unfamiliar with the notorious case. 'Norwegian Ninja' scores points, however, for its stylish recreation of low-budget 80s films and its still relevant message about government collusion."
'Ong Bak 3'
From Peter Martin's Review: "It continues the downward trend of formerly hot action star Tony Jaa ... Save for a brief action scene, the first 45 minutes of 'Ong Bak 3' are torturous to sit through ... tedious philosophizing and long sequences where absolutely nothing happens, it's evidently meant to explain why Tien, the character played by Jaa, has been suffering great pain. The audience can sympathize."
From John Gholson's Review: "'Primal' is a bit like creature feature comfort food -- a reliable old shoe of a monster movie, that delivers where it counts, with simple genre goals and an able and willing cast ... the world's best anti-skinny dipping PSA."
From Luke Mullen's Review: "Germany, a country not exactly known for any genre films, let alone zombie films, has come out of left field with the exciting film 'Rammbock' ... startlingly brief ... focuses on a small group of people trapped in an apartment complex, forced to work together to survive ... well-crafted, personal story that's fun to watch."
From Todd Gilchrist's Review: "An engaging, well-made action comedy that benefits from the talents of its decidedly mature cast members, even if it unspools with a pace better suited to their generation than the moviegoers that grew up watching their earlier movies."
From Jette Kernion's Review: "'Redline' is fast, furious and out of control ... makes 'Speed Racer' look like a Sunday drive ... supporting characters range from magical princesses to bizarrely slimy creatures to robot overlords to Funky Boy, which has to be seen to be believed ... is a whirlwind of a fun movie, and definitely not for children ... it's almost overwhelming, but not quite."
From Brad McHargue's Review: "Designed to question convention ... manages to take an inanimate object, instill in it sentience, then have it roll around and blow stuff up ... delightfully meta ... would have worked exceptionally well as a short as opposed to a feature ... often plods forth with absolutely nothing being done to further what constitutes the story."
From Luke Mullen's Review: "'Stake Land' is essentially a Western road movie with vampires ... their scrapes with the Brotherhood make them marked men and vampires may be the least of their problems ... a dry, bleak film with a few good points that aren't quite enough to save it."
'Sound of Noise'
From Jette Kernion's Review: "The film's successful balance of comedy, music, and police procedural make it easy to understand why it won two Critics Week awards at Cannes this year ... plays exactly like a good old-fashioned caper film ... Their musical performances are delightful, and nothing like anything you'd hear in a traditional movie musical, I assure you."
From Jette Kernion's Review: "If 'Redline' is punk rock anime, 'Summer Wars' is High School Musical in comparison -- pastels, schoolgirls, adorable children and delightfully nerdy teens. (But better music.) ... "'WarGames' re-imagined as a Japanese ensemble family drama. And then animated." ... the animation style is lovely, and the characters are engaging and fun to watch. Natsuki's extended family is one of the most delightfully loopy seen onscreen since 'The Host' -- everyone a little offbeat but still generally loving and happy."
From Will Goss' Review: "'Undocumented' is essentially a Stateside answer to 'Hostel,' fusing together a very real sense of xenophobia with very gruesome torture scenarios ... political points are thuddingly obvious ... violence grows somewhat tiresome ... convincingly frantic throughout ... genuinely tense moments."
'We Are What We Are'
From Luke Mullen's Review: "But it quickly becomes clear that this isn't your ordinary family, and their needs are dark and sinister ... The acting and cinematography are both top-notch, but it's a quiet, subtle story for the most part. It's a great concept and well executed, but the pace is a little too slow making it hard to stay interested."
The Events and Experience
Must-Watch Karaoke: The RZA, Elijah Wood and Tim League Dominate the Black Eyed Peas:
Diary of a Fantastic Fest Virgin, Part One: Waiting For the Fantastic
From Jacob Hall's Article: "It seemed that while I was zombie-ing it up ... It seemed I missed Elijah Wood, Tim League, Nacho Vigalondo and The RZA joining together on stage to sing "I Gotta Feeling' by The Black Eyed Peas ... I missed Bill Pullman dancing on stage to "It's Raining Men." I missed the weirdest, wildest musical performance of all time. It was apparently the Best Thing Ever. Only at Fantastic Fest."
Diary of a Fantastic Fest Virgin, Part Two: Angry Koreans and Unsafe Children
From Jacob Hall's Article: "Nothing is worse than loudly bad-mouthing a film only to learn that a producer of said film is sitting in the row in front of you. Well, at least nothing is worse for a polite pushover like me, who declared a movie that will not be named a "total friggin' disaster" only to be met with chalk white faces and a whispered explanation as to the identity of a man three feet away from me."
Diary of a Fantastic Fest Virgin, Part Three: Ending With a Bang
From Jacob Hall's Article: "You've got to realize that this is not just a chance to see unforgettable movies, but a chance to create unforgettable memories, to meet unforgettable people and to forget all of it in the morning after those free tequila shots have done a number on your brain. This is a singular, unique experience that every movie fan should experience. It's the antidote to negativity, a cure for mainstream mediocrity. It's the most fun you'll have all year."
Dealing With Fantastic Disappointment
From Brian Salisbury's Article: "I respectfully ask you to consider this radical notion: it is sometimes a good thing to not get into a film. "
The Fantastic Debates: Michelle Rodriguez vs. Lesser Men
From Will Goss' Article: "When League brought up 'The Hurt Locker''s win over 'Avatar', Rodriguez was quick to point out that "I'm happy for Kathryn Bigelow. I think it's time that women deserve recognition in Hollywood. But I'm not here for that. I'm here to kick your ass." ... with Rodriguez' evident boxing training helping her hold her own against a remarkably tenacious League. As the crowd cheered on, Egerton chimed in: "She's fast! She's furious! She's S.W.A.T.!"
'Nevermore,' Jeffrey Combs' one-man stage play directed by Stuart Gordon
From John Gholson's Recap: "It promises an "evening with Edgar Allen Poe" and that's exactly what it delivers. I'm not even sure Combs was at the two performances I saw, but Edgar Allan Poe definitely was."
The Secret Screenings: 'I Saw the Devil,' 'Never Let Me Go,' 'Hell Driver,' 'The Troll Hunter'
Here's a trailer for 'The Troll Hunter,' a film whose surprise World Premiere was met with rave acclaim:
Yuen Woo-Ping's Lifetime Achievement Award
From Brian Salisbury's Recap: "Yuen Woo-ping is long overdue for accolades and it is so fitting that he receive this award at this festival. The two Woo-ping films selected for Fantastic Fest 2010 transcend obligatory primacy and recency and serve as poignant bookends that illustrate the legacy of a true master."
'Buried' - Ryan Reynolds and Rodrigo Cortes
From Peter Hall's Interview: "I think it's a great story just because that is not how sh*t gets done in Hollywood. Stuff gets done through a very elaborate, bureaucratic system that you wouldn't believe – much like Paul's dilemma in this movie. So I just like that this all happened over a handshake in a cafe in L.A. No one discussed anything about anything, we just wanted to do the movie together and two months later we were 'Buried.'"
'Hatchet 2' - Adam Green, Danielle Harris and Kane Hodder
From Brian Salisbury's Interview: "So actually this one, it's funny, but it's a lot darker than the first one was; a little bit more serious. And with the kills, we kind of took the face rip [a great kill from 'Hatchet'] as the bar and tried to beat that."
'Let Me In' - Composer Michael Giacchino
From Todd Gilchrist's Interview: "Well, usually, prior to seeing it, my mind will be swimming in the genre that it is. But generally what ends up happening is once I see something, I basically just write what I feel. If I watch a scene or a film and in parts of it, I'm feeling incredibly sad, that's what I write. If I feel horrified or scared, that's what I write."
'Machete Maidens Unleashed!' - Mark Hartley
From Brian Salisbury's Interview: "And it worked out much better for the project ultimately because when we got to the Philippines, these people had made so many films there that they couldn't remember working on them. They were shooting five films a week and have 400 hundred films in their filmographies. But the Americans, you know, it was such a culture shock for them that they remembered it like it was yesterday."
'Universal Monster Talent Agency' - Greg Nicotero
From Luke Mullen's Interview: "Howard Berger, who co-produced the short with me and owns KNB, we always kind of have a joke because we get phone calls like the night before somebody's shooting something and it's not like hey we need a fake dog to rent. They'll call and say uhhh we need a 17 foot blue squirrel that shoots electricity out of its ass."
'Nevermore' - Jeffrey Combs and Stuart Gordon
From John Gholson's Interview: "I'd love to do a film version of it. We videotaped the performance, but I'd like to do it where we go into an old theatre, and have the audience in costumes, and have gaslight illumination for the stage, and really..."
The Lists and Awards
Seven Freakiest Fantastic Fest Films and Whether You Should See Them
Peter Hall's rather self-explanatory list of the seven most controversial films at this year's fest and if/why they're worth your time.
Cinematical Seven: Great Fantastic Fest Films That Deserve American Distribution
The majority of the films at FF lack US distribution, so Jette Kernion compiled a list of the seven currently without that deserve it the most.
Top 10 Most Fantastic Movies at Fantastic Fest 2010
A list (made ahead of the fest by Peter Hall) of the 10 films most likely to embody the FF spirit best.
The Killer Award Winners of Fantastic Fest 2010
Here is the complete list of films that received accolades in various categories from both the audience and the fest's official jurors.